National Children’s Dental Health Month - First Things First
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February is dedicated towards increasing awareness of proper dental hygiene for kids

Feb. 1, 2022 (Cochise County, Ariz.) — There’s more to love in February than chocolate, roses, and Valentine’s Day. This month also celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month. The annual occurrence, sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA), is a great time to increase awareness surrounding pediatric dental hygiene. By simply making a few small changes today, a child’s oral health can be shaped for their entire future. Unfortunately, in Cochise County, 46% of children have experienced tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten.

“When dental care is postponed until later childhood, the chances of pain, infection and dental cavities increase dramatically,” said Brianna L Hillier, DMD, Director of Dental Services for Chiricahua Community Health Centers. “Dental cavities are the most common chronic disease of childhood, four times more prevalent than asthma.”

Below are four dentist-approved tips for caring for young children’s teeth in the best possible way.

1. Brush Teeth or Clean Gums 2x Daily

One simple way to celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month is with colorful new toothbrushes for the family. In fact, toothbrushes are supposed to be replaced every 3-4 months, so this is a great reminder to do so. According to the ADA, when a toothbrush’s bristles are frayed, they aren’t nearly as effective as they should be. A fun idea is to allow little ones to pick out new toothbrushes featuring their favorite characters and colors. Electric or battery-operated brushes are the best options for brushing teeth thoroughly. Also, soft bristles are recommended for delicate little teeth and gums. For babies, parents are encouraged to use a soft washcloth to clean gums and teeth every day, because cleaning gums should be done even before the first tooth surfaces.

2. Schedule a Visit to the Dentist

One of the best (and easiest) ways to celebrate the theme of this month is by scheduling an appointment at your local pediatric dentist’s office. Regular cleanings should occur twice a year, typically every six months. Keep in mind, children should see a dentist when their first tooth appears, or by their first birthday. The sooner children become familiar with bi-annual dental cleanings, the more comfortable they’ll be for their visits in the future. Many insurance plans and AHCCCS cover dental visits for children with little to no out-of-pocket costs.

According to a local pediatrician, Dr. Darlene Melk, “The importance of the first dental visit is critical for preventing future problems and ensuring the best chances for children to grow up with happy, healthy smiles. All children should have an in-person dental visit starting with the first tooth eruption or by the age of one, whichever happens first.”

3. Color a Chart

First Things First and the Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me™ campaign offer fun coloring pages and activities online to help little ones celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month, including a fill-in chart that tracks their healthy habits. This is a creative way for kids to color and customize their own tooth-brushing chart to track results. It can be hung in the bathroom as a motivator for young children to brush twice a day, for two minutes at a time. Parents can make the chart even more fun by offering a reward, such as a special outing or toy after their kids have colored in a full week of consistent morning and nighttime brushing.

4. Make Plaque Appear (Then Disappear)

Plaque build-up is typically hard to see with the naked eye, so some kids may not fully grasp the importance of brushing well. However, a quick demonstration with youngsters using a plaque-disclosing tablet will reveal plaque on the teeth. Adults can point out in a mirror all the areas where plaque is showing on their children’s teeth, and where it likes to hide. Then take a moment to allow them to brush the color away until it’s all clear. Sometimes a visual reminder is all it takes for kids to form a lifetime of healthy brushing habits.

The First Things First Cochise Region wants to ensure that parents place an emphasis on proper oral hygiene during National Children’s Dental Health Month. Although the candy, chocolate and colorful hearts may take center stage for Valentine’s Day, National Children’s Dental Health Month is much more important for infant and toddler’s overall health and well-being. By incorporating these suggestions into the month of February and thereafter, parents and caregivers will be providing young children with the best possible chance of a healthy, happy smile for years to come.

For more information about creating healthy dental habits, including videos and activities for children, visit

About First Things First

As Arizona’s early childhood agency, First Things First funds early learning, family support and children’s preventive health services to help young kids learn, grow and succeed. Local councils made up of community volunteers determine strategies to meet the needs of children birth to age 5.

The Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me™ campaign in Cochise County is focused on the youngest members of the community — children under five with a goal of highlighting the importance of scheduling the first dentist appointment when a baby gets their first tooth or by their first birthday. The effort is in coordination with Sesame Street in Communities and features a variety of familiar characters.